I remember when I watched Snow White, the evil stepmother always asked the magic mirror about who is the fairest.
“Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” And yet, we did not realize that by “fairest” she means the skin color.
Despite living in Indonesia, a faraway land from Snow White’s home, my mom still told me that I need to be fair because being dark is considered ugly.
Women here are always treated as if they are the candidates to go against Snow White; the fairer one wins. Because of this, a lot of Indonesian women actually put a lot of effort to become fairer.
Indonesians obsession for being white
In Indonesia, it is normal to have the desire to appear lighter. In my family, I am the only one who’s not obsessed with being fair because I feel like being tan suits me better. My family and other fellow Indonesians are obsessed with having a fair skin. No matter how hard or expensive it is, they will always find a way to make it happen.
Additionally, Indonesia as a nation seems to preserve this ideology for so many years. One way to notice it is by the availability of whitening and brightening skincare products. In a discussion on Quora about “Why do Indonesian women in general love thick makeup?”, one user named “Rebecca Oriza” answered the question saying that she could not find any lotion which does not cater for skin whitening in most convenience stores. And that is true. If you go to any store and walk to the skincare section, you will find most of it contain brightening and whitening properties.
Other than that, women here are willing to cover their faces with a foundation that is lighter than their own skin in order to appear fairer. One Reddit user “u/eraser_dust” said that he or she has noticed the trend of wearing a lighter foundation shade when he or she visited Indonesia. This redditor also said that a local drugstore brand manager told the redittor their lightest foundation shade is the most popular when the darkest one is the least popular. This thing makes the brands' effort to advertise their darkest shades remain unnoticed.
I remember that back in the day when I didn’t know much about make-up, my mom always told me to put a foundation she has; it is either porcelain or light beige. She insisted that it looks good, and here I am remembering the day I look super pale as it does not match my skin tone, neither did hers. She bought the shade “porcelain” just for the sake of being fair.
Other than that, Dina, the representative of Research and Development from Zoya Cosmetics Indonesia, said that most women in Indonesia are still holding on to this beauty standard which leads to most of companies and brands focus more on creating fair foundation shades. The outcome of this can be seen in the market as most of local brands only have 4 shades on average. Other than that, there are some international drugstore brands which have more shades, but most of them have the similar tone, mostly beige.
A lot of people, including me, have thought of this a social issue. I am so tired of seeing all that 50 shades of beige in the racks. It really breaks my heart when I accompany an Indian friend of mine to do her foundation hunting because there is no foundation that really matched her skin color.
I am sick of seeing all that mask-like foundation in people’s faces just because they want to appear fairer, so they insisted to wear the lighter foundation shades even it means they will look like they wear a mask and looks greyish.
I am crying inside when I saw people act just like there is nothing wrong with the mask they put on, and the insecurities they hide that causes by having a skin darker than a cup of Milo.
What’s worse is that brands and companies seem like they are supporting it. They just closed one eye because people will keep demanding the lighter shades and left people with darker skin suffer.
The impact of Fenty Beauty
Having 4 shades in a foundation line and the desire of getting the fairest shades of a foundation is always a normal thing in Indonesia. You can easily find people who wear heavy base make-up which does not suit their skin color; it is a common view here.
But not long ago, when Fenty Beauty hit the beauty community with 40 shades of their Pro Filtr Foundation, a gateway to a new beauty industry worldwide, including Indonesia, has opened.
Even though half of the success of Fenty Beauty is because of the figure behind the brand, Rihanna’s foundation line has always stood out due to their wide range of foundation shades.
It is sad that Fenty Beauty has not launched yet in Indonesia, but at least some international brands that are available in Indonesia also follow the steps of Fenty Beauty by creating wider range of shades and undertones in their foundation line.
As for local brands, I did not really see any obvious progresses. Most of the new brands also focus more on creating other product and not base product like foundation. But in order to look into the detail of foundation line growth in Indonesia, on behalf of iPrice team, I decided to gather the data and see if there is any progresses made.
The data collection focused on 5 best-seller drugstore brands. BB and CC cream do not really have as much shade to be compared so the focus will be put in liquid foundation. After collecting the shades then they are arranged according to their darkness level and the brand which has the least shades to the one with most shades between the five.
Based on the data gathered, Maybelline FitMe Matte+Poreless has the most shades; 16 of it. But shockingly, the products that are selling in Indonesia does not have as much shades as the one sold in US and UK. In US they have as much as 40 shades and they only sell 16 shades here. Same goes to Revlon ColorStay Liquid Make Up which has only five shades in Indonesia, while they have 43 shades globally.
On the other hand, Make Over foundation only has 9 shades. But these 9 shades actually cater to darker skin-tone.
But what surprises me the most is the Wardah Luminous Liquid foundation. It is really painful to see that a local brand which is covering 50% of the local market only come up with four shades of the foundation. Other local brands like Emina, Caring, and Inez also has around four shades at most. This actually showed that there is no obvious progress made by the local beauty brand to fix the issue.
Steps to be taken by local brands and companies
Lack of foundation for “Indonesian skin” is never perceived as an issue. But the launch of Fenty Beauty somehow educated the public about having a color match between their foundation and skin. It may be caused by the influential figure of Rihanna that people finally aware of this.
Even though international brands have followed Fenty Beauty’s footstep, some would cut off their shade range when selling in the Indonesian market; just like how Maybelline has 40 shades in the US and only 16 shades in Indonesia. So, even some people are willing to pay for the price, their shades are not there.
As for local brand, many have acknowledged their top-notch quality, praising them for being able to put on a product as good as international ones with cheaper prices. Still, the problem remains; there are just not enough shades! Watch this video by Indonesian beauty vlogger “livjunkie” where she actually praised a quality of local foundation but was disappointed with the shade range.
In fact, a user of Female Daily forum called “Ochell” also conducted a small survey in her Instagram and found out that 85% of women are unsatisfied to find the suitable foundation for Indonesian skin.
Local brands are expected to be able to catch up with the beauty community and keep up with the international brand in order to provide more choices of colors to women in Indonesia with a cheaper price range. Even though brand and companies are expected to do so, the changes in the community also need to be helped by the consumers and community itself.
I personally think local brands may do something more influential. Cooperation between brands to organize a huge campaign to educate people that those with darker skin can make changes in the Indonesian beauty community. The involvement of an influential beauty vlogger with darker skin-tone as a spokesperson is also possible as they normally have a lot of fans and followers. Thus, the consumer will be more educated regarding the matter.
So what do you think? Have you found your foundation shades yet?